Practice Quilting

by jenny

Quilting in the 21st Century is an art form. I’m fascinated by what exactly influences a person to become a quilter, and to find out from them what keeps them interested. Some quilters love to enter their quilts in competitions. Others say the competitive arena turns them off. Some love to teach others. Some love to make gifts, those that document history. My grandmother and mother were quilters. Sometimes I think of sewing as an albatross across my neck, sometimes as a badge of honor.  People have all sorts of aims and reasons for engaging in fabric manipulation.

Irish Chain
Irish Chain quilt top–will wait till I get better

I’ve enjoyed quilting on a regular domestic sewing machine, but it does have a few draw-backs for me.

Using a long-arm sewing machine with a frame is different, and in my mind, better in some ways.  1) You can stand up while quilting.  Sitting down for hours every day can be a drag, when almost everything you like to do must be done sitting down.  2) You don’t have to insert 200 or more pins in the quilt with the longarm. The rollers on the frame keep it together pretty well, and it has bungee clips for keeping the layers taut while they’re being quilted. 3) You don’t get as hot quilting with a longarm as you do on a sit-down machine, because the quilt is on the frame, not drifting around on your lap, and you don’t work up a sweat moving the heavy thing around under the needle. 4) It looks like the quilting goes faster using a longarm.

We looked at lots of brands and types of machines, and ultimately chose the Qnique because it was certainly the lowest-priced longarm, although it does come up in lots of online searches for “mid arm.” I’m understanding that the term “mid arm” usually refers to a “sit-down” type long-arm, one that you put on a table, and move the quilt around underneath the needle as if you were using a big ol’ domestic sewing machine. The Qnique is more like a petite little longarm machine.

We got a good deal on it, and actually developed a rapport with the company before deciding to buy.  Since there are no retail outlets in our vicinity that we could buy from, we wanted to know what sort of maintenance we might need, and who could work on the machine if it needed fixing or parts or if we couldn’t figure out how to put it together. They have lots of You-tube videos for all the various questions a customer might have. We did have to wait about a month to get it delivered, because there were lots of backorders for this machine.

practice quilting
practice quilting
practice quilt stitch
practice stitching

I’ve been doodling around on practice fabric–you know, the fabric that you don’t really like but would feel guilty throwing away because someone important gave it to you. And it needs to be solid-colored fabric, so you can see what the stitches look like. The first few things I’ve done have a few ugly bobbin-tension-challenged stitches on the underside, so I will have to nip that little problem in the bud. I must say, though, the top stitching looks pretty good.

After checking around the net, I’ve been surprised to learn that most quilters do free-motion quilting on a longarm. Some use templates to create geometric quilting patterns. Some quilt machines use a laser stylus to trace patterns, and some are controlled by a computer, making the quilting process automated. Thus, the 21st Century has wrought technological advances to the formerly time-consuming task of making covers out of smaller pieces of cloth. The modern quilts may not turn out more beautiful than the ones our ancestors made, but we can finish them quicker.

9 thoughts on “Practice Quilting”

  1. Oh wow so happy for you! Shortarm, midarm, and longarm refers to the length of the machine from needle end to cord end. Different companies will describe their different machines according to what they want to sell. A midarm in one company might be a shortarm or a longarm to other companies.

    Using freehand or using templates is a matter of design choice and time consideration. Those earning a living at quilting like doing freehand because its faster. But someone who is not earning a living can certainly take much more time finishing a quilt. That’s why most of the big show winners don’t quilt for a living.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how you progress with your quilting in stand up style. You’ve got half the learning curve done already.

    1. thank you–better believe I’ve been scouring your old blog posts for inspiration and info! And with a lot of new-found respect for what you do! 🙂

  2. That looks like such a neat machine! Years ago, I took 2 @ purple flat twin sheets, used white taylor’s chalk to draw on a design my daughter wanted, then pinned the two sheets together with fluffy polyfiber in between… THEN, I tightly rolled it up so I could fit it on my regular sewing machine and stitched the design in thick white thread… it took forever and took more maneuvering than you’d believe, but turned out okay …. I could not be paid to try to do a 2nd project that way, though! Seems like your unit was designed to take care of most of the problems I had.

    1. I like the sound of purple and white thread! Loads of people quilt on their sewing machines. Hopefully I won’t have to do as much stitch picking & redoing with this set up 🙂

  3. “Sometimes I think of sewing as an albatross across my neck, sometimes as a badge of honor.” I’m not a quilter or seamstress, but my Mom and grandmother and great-grandmother and on up the line are/were. I’ve felt pressure my whole life to sew, but the sewing machine & I just don’t get along, so I knit/crochet/spin/weave instead. A friend has offered to lend me her much nicer machine once she gets a new one so I can try it; I think my entry level machine is part of my problem. Anyway, your post has left me wanting to quilt with a long-arm machine!

    1. Trying one out is a great idea. I read lots of reviews of midarms that called their new machines some version of a pricey boat anchor! You have to get one that comes with good customer service and hopefully, have access to some training. And if you encounter any problems or glitches, someone has probably addressed it in a You-tube or blog!

    1. So far, in practicing only, so good! I don’t feel that I am ready to do some real quilting, but maybe soon. I’ve never sent a quilt to a longarmer to quilt for me, so not sure if there would be a cost savings. I have machine quilted some lap-size quilts myself. Do you machine quilt your own or send them to a longarm to do?

Please comment, if you feel so inclined!